Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spinach and Ricotta Canneloni

Canneloni is a baked pasta dish that i love doing, now that i've found how easy it is piping the filling into the pasta tubes, rather than trying to spoon it in :P  Love my practical mate and old housemate Becky, who walked past the kitchen once when I was making them and just said "why don't you use a bag to pipe it in?".... :D

Now that spinach is in season, it's a perfect time to make it! :)  There's not much worse than finding grit in your teeth when sinking into delicious canneloni, so make sure you wash the spinach extremely well!  The method i describe below is great if you want to store it for some days afterwards also - just spin the leaves until try and keep in a sealed plastic container, ideally one with a draining tray inside of it.  Will keep for a week, all juicy and firm!

To feed a 10 people or so (made it for a dinner party my parents were hosting) you will need:

  • 1 kg ricotta (I personally prefer the maltese rikotta made with whole milk and salt water, rather than the Italian one made with cooked whey, but it's personal choice)
  • Fresh milk 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 kg fresh spinach (probably about 600 grams if you don't have to clean/remove from stalks etc)
  • Tomato sauce (made in the method described here) - but use 4 tins of tomatoes instead of fresh, 3 heaped tablespoons of Kunserva and about a head of garlic.  If you don't have fresh basil use Italian dried herbs)
  • pepper, salt
  • 2x 250 gram packets of canneloni ( I used the Barilla Emiliane ones - egg pasta)
  • about 1-2 cups grated cheese - i used Kefalotiri (love the saltiness in baked dishes!)

Preparing Spinach:

 - Clear out your kitchen sink. Take the spinach leaves off the stalks, and throw them into the sink, filling it up with cold water as you go.  Discard (compost if you have it!) the roots, stalks, bad leaves and any little snails that are pesky enough to have snuck past the farmer and his pesticides :P
Fill the sink up so that the leaves have plenty of water to float around in.  toss them in the water, taking care to ensure that all the leaves are getting rinsed.  The dirt will sink to the bottom and the leaves float well.  If the spinach is a little wilted, leave it in the cold water for 10 minute or so and it'll perk up :)
Drain the water, and repeat.  Seems like waste of water so if you can do this in a basin of sorts and use it to water the garden, nothing's stopping you! :)
Instead of draining the water this time, wash the leaves a little more and then lift them out into a large cooking pot (that has a good lid).  This way they won't get re-contaminated by any dirt that's sunk to the bottom!
Place all the leaves in the pot, then use the lid to drain any water that's collected at the bottom.  the moisture on the leaves is more than enough for it to cook in.

 - Place the pot with the lid on, on a medium flame, and as soon as you hear the leaves somewhat starting to cook, lower the heat and leave covered for 4-5 minutes until leaves are well wilted, but still intensely green. 
Turn off heat, and allow to cool in a colander (so that much of the liquid drains off).
When cool, squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the spinach.  Then chop quite finely. 

Tomato sauce:
 - Make a tomato sauce and allow to cool somewhat.  I made it the night before to save time.

Ricotta/Spinach filling
Mash the ricotta in a large mixing bowl and add the eggs and a dash of milk to it.  Add about 1 cup of the grated cheese, and the chopped spinach.  Salt and pepper to taste, then start adding milk until it's about the consistency of thick porridge, almost able to pour, moves around very easily in the bowl. This tastes very delicious but I should mention it's probably not the best idea to eat raw egg (shhh, i do it anyway lol)

Making the canneloni
You will need 2 decent sized baking dishes to make this amount.
Ladle some tomato sauce into the base of the dish.
Open the packet of canneloni, and ideally take them out of the pack (makes it easier to grab them!)
Get a medium sized freezer bag, and fill it with the ricotta mixture.  Cut a small hole in one of the corners.

You now have a canneloni piping bag!  the next step is the most fun part of this dish, that is pipe the mixture into each pasta tube, and line them up on the sauce in the dish :)  don't worry if some spills out, it's all going into your belly anyway! :)

Keep on doing until you've filled up the dish, if they don't fit vertically, just fit them into the dish any way you can.  Try and fill the dish with as many cannelloni as you can, so that they cook evenly :)

Once you've filled all the dishes and used as many cannelloni as you can fit, sprinkle some extra milk over them (maybe a quarter cup for each medium-large baking dish), ladle the rest of the tomato sauce over them, sprinkle with a generous amount of grated cheese, some salt,  and some freshly ground pepper :) 

Put into the oven at 180 for about 30 minutes (or until the top is lovely and bubbly with a few caramelised bits), and serve immediately! :)

this dish was kinda overcooked as i accidentally had the oven on 220!  was still excellent (albeit a little more black on the top than i really wanted!)
Great served on its own in giant portions, or in smaller portions with a fresh green salad (simple dressing of fresh olive oil, mustard, balsamic and pepper)

second dish turned out better, omg such moist delicious goodness!! :)



  1. This brings back memories! I remember making this with my mum when I was young *licks lips* - it was always my job to fill the tubes... mostly with my (clean!!) hands of course - the messier the better!!

  2. Thanks for the invitation but I have no idea how you would think that a person who writes only about food would be interested in a blog about indoctrination of their fellow humans :)

    In other words, no, no, and again, NO.

  3. Looks yummy lara! :)

    Food > Indoctrination